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Forbidden fruit or soured grapes? Long-term effects of the temporary unavailability and rationing of US news websites on their consumption from the European Union

Thurman, N., Sly, J., Wilczek, B. & Fletcher, R. (2022). Forbidden fruit or soured grapes? Long-term effects of the temporary unavailability and rationing of US news websites on their consumption from the European Union. International Communication Gazette, doi: 10.1177/17480485221111312

Abstract

In May 2018, hundreds of websites located outside the European Union (EU), including USAToday.com, became completely or partially unavailable to EU citizens as a number of publishers decided to comply with an EU data protection regulation (GDPR) by blocking access. Several of the sites that started to exclude EU users continued to do so for months or years, even though some of their competitors, like the New York Times, never adopted a policy of exclusion. These differing strategies allowed us to conduct a quasi-experimental study on the effects of temporary product unavailability and temporary rationing. We find that both temporary product withdrawal and temporary rationing can have long-term effects. In our case, monthly unique visitors in the months and even years after full access was restored were between 44% and 61% lower than they had been before the restrictions were imposed, with a wider market contraction explaining only part of these falls. We also find distinct differences between the effects of temporarily rationing and temporarily withdrawing websites. Although both strategies lead to a long-term loss in visitors, rationing appears to increase a website's desirability for some consumers. After rationing was lifted, USAToday.com's reduced audience consumed the title more deeply and frequently than had been the case before rationing was imposed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Publisher Keywords: General Data Protection Regulation, lock-in, product availability, rationing, restricted availability, status quo bias, switching costs, transnational news audiences, unavailability, website consumption
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
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